CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers are struggling, and then some. LeBron James believes he's a major reason for their early failures.
"We got a four-game losing streak, so I stink," he said. "I'm not doing my job."
With the Cavs at 5-7, playing uninspired and not close to living up to enormous expectations, James offered the blunt critique of his own game Monday at the team's shootaround as they prepared to host the Orlando Magic.
After a day spent with family and watching football, James, who called the Cavs "fragile" following Saturday night's loss to the Toronto Raptors, said he has to do a better job leading the way. He's staying positive, cognizant that if he isn't upbeat his teammates will follow his example.
"Me being the leader of the team, if I start hanging my head low then it's going to start going to everyone else," he said. "They look up to me. They look to me to make a difference and I've got to stay positive even through the rough times. As I've said before, this is not the darkest point that we'll see this year. I've seen dark and this is very light to me."
Cleveland, picked by many to win the NBA title in James' homecoming season, went 0-4 last week with losses to Denver, San Antonio, Washington and Toronto. James wasn't himself, averaging just 18 points per game, committing a turnover in the closing seconds of the loss to the Spurs and inexplicably not hustling back on defense in the loss to the Wizards. He's made uncharacteristically foolish passes and shown frustration with his body language.
James has tried to send messages to his teammates during interview sessions.
After the loss to Toronto, he cautioned that the Cavs' problems would probably grow worse before they got better, a forecast that chilled some Cleveland fans already dealing with the onset of an early winter.
On Monday, James said the Cavs' tough times could linger.
"This is not the biggest adversity point that we'll hit," he said. "Do I think we're going to get to the finals? I don't know. I don't know what the future holds, but from my perspective it's not as bad as it may seem."
James' reference point for "dark" times is different from any of his teammates. He often sites the 2011 NBA Finals, when he and the Miami Heat squandered a 2-1 lead and lost in six games to the Dallas Mavericks, as the low point of his career.
The collapse haunts James.
"It's still here with me," he said. "I think about it every day. Every day at some point something that happened in that series pops in my head."
When he was in Miami, James had All-Star Dwyane Wade, a former NBA champion, to help him lead. He doesn't have that luxury in Cleveland. While Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are elite players, neither have been through the grind of a championship season.
He's going it alone, and to this point the load has been heavy for James.
"It's a different feeling," he said. "But something I was ready for. I knew it would be the biggest challenge of my career thus far, and I accept the challenge. When we lose I take full responsibility and when we win the team wins, that's what it's all about."